In reading the quote above, don’t think of “glacier-like” as slow. Leo Burnett’s ad campaigns moved the need for his clients astonishingly fast, as exemplified by his turnaround campaign for Marlboro. Think of glacier-like in terms of the power to utterly transform the business and competitive landscapes. The power to grow not just in percentages, but multiples. The power to create business empires on the back of a branding campaign that runs for decades.
Branding and Familiarity
The goal of branding, of course, is to cause buyers to think of your brand first and feel the best about it whenever they need what you sell. We want to win the sale before it even begins. And to this end, friendly familiarity wins that contest handily. All else being equal, the familiar brand comes to mind sooner and feels safer. Of course, you’ll grab Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes over the (significantly) cheaper, generic and off-brand alternatives — you recognize Tony’s unmistakable image and endorsement from across the aisle, bestowing on you the reassurance of knowing what you’re getting. Why risk disappointment over a dollar difference? Yet it’s not just familiarity we’re after; it’s friendly familiarity.
The Irresistible Appeal of a Well-known Mascot and Spokesperson
Leo Burnett didn’t want you to simply recognize Tony the Tiger, the Keebler Elves, the Jolly Green Giant, Snap-Crackle-Pop, he wanted you to bond with them. And if reading that list of characters caused the slightest tinge of nostalgia, you just felt that bonding. The Geico Gecko and the Chick-Fil-A cows are modern examples of this same strategy. It’s a strategy that works just as well with spokesmen, as the blockbuster successes of the Marlboro Man, Most Interesting Man, and The Man Your Man Could Smell Like campaigns attest.
The Owner-Operator Advantage
So does that mean YOU need to use a brand mascot or iconic (and fictional) spokesperson in your advertising? No. Staging dramas with fictional spokes-characters is certainly one way of building friendly familiarity. After all, who can forget the Maytag repairman or Charmin’s Mister Whipple? But if you’re an owner-operator who’s passionate about your business, acting as your brand spokesperson is every bit as effective, if not more so. Take Frank Perdue and his no-nonsense ads for Perdue Chicken. If you’re not familiar with those brilliant ads by Scali McCabe Sloves, check ‘em out here:
During the run of those ads from 1972 through 1984, Perdue Farms’ sales doubled every two years. And take note, Frank Perdue is the total opposite of what most people would look for in a spokesperson or frontman: skinny, tinny-voiced, balding, and far from handsome. Yet he spoke passionately with pure conviction. “Everybody’s chickens are approved by the government. But my chickens are also approved by me.” How can you not love that? Who doesn’t believe that**“it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken”?**Want another example? How about Chrysler’s Lee Iacocca?
Or George Zimmer, who took his menswear chain of 12 stores and turned it into a billion-dollar empire on the back of his conviction that**“You’re going to like the way you look — I guarantee it!”**
Or Victor Kiam, who doubled Remington sales, turning it into a behemoth in the electric shaver market based on his immortal line: “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company”
None of these owner-spokesmen were as cuddly or overtly “friendly” as one of Leo Burnett’s mascots, but they created friendly familiarity with their audiences due to their pure conviction and “the buck stops here” attitude. They blanketed the airwaves and, in most cases, ran their campaigns for decades. And that created the friendly familiarity that turned their brands into household words and their businesses into empires. And, yes, you too can do the same thing for your company, given the right ad campaign and the courage of your convictions.